This article was translated by John R. Bopp

In the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, Allison Lawlor has written a beautiful obituary for Elsie Basque, a member of the Mi’kmaq nation and who lived a hard but extraordinary life, in which she stood out for defending the rights of the First Nations peoples.

We cannot help but be surprised to find a member of one of the Canadian First Nations, the Mi’kmaq, has the surname “Basque”.  We are curious to know why a member of a First Nation in Canada would have as a surname the name of a people from Europe.

But if we go through our own blog, we can begin to imagine the relationships between the Basques and the native inhabitants of that area of modern-day Canada, who spoke Algonquian and who were there for centuries, creating a Basque-Algonquian pidgin.  

Professor Aitor Esteban, of the University of Deusto, tells us the story of these relationships in great detail in an article published in the magazine Euskaletxeak (see below).  In this article, he also discusses how it’s even common to find the surname “Basque” among the Mi’kmaq of northern New Brunswick.

Reading the life of Elsie Basque allows us to know her story of overcoming and great effort, fighting all efforts to suppress it with tools as cruel as Residential Schools, and her efforts to maintain her roots while adapting to new realities.

Her labor has been recognized in both Canada and the United States, where she lived for years, and where she was also an active defender of the rights of First Nations people and of Civil Rights.

We’re sure that Elsie Basque would have related with many Basque women who, with great difficulty, have committed themselves to preserving and defending the culture of their country, i.e., ours; people who, as the headline of the article in the Canadian newspaper points out, are “role models”.

Elsie Basque, Goian Bego


This entry has been getting some very special reactions from the readers of our Facebook page. Alongside the what might be called “habitual” comments, there have been some with very special meaning–so much so that we think they should be shared here.

The wonderful comments from a Northern Basque man who lives in Québec:

In fact the name of the Chef of the Mi’kmaq in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia , Canada, is Mr.Basque . I had the privilege to talk to him years ago when Selma Huxley that you all know, was ” en route ” for Newfoundland and gave me his phone number. He remember that the elders of the reserve knew about the story of the Basques Whalers that stop on the coast of N.S in the 16,century. They said that the name Basque was given to the Mi’kmaq women after they lived with Basque sailors and had children with them !

The homage another follower paid to Elsie Basque, using a song by Mikel Laboa, which is especially appropriate for this occasion, dedicating a very special farewell Basques reserve for “the best” AGUR ETA OHORE

 Martxa baten lehen notak First Notes for a March
 Eguzkiak urtzen du gohian
gailurretako euria
uharka da jausten ibarrera
geldigaitza den oldarra.Gure baita datza eguzkia
iluna eta izotza
urratu dezakeen argia
utuko den bihotza.Bihotza bezain bero zabalik
besoak eta eskuak
gorririk ikus dezagun egia
argiz beterik burua.

Bakoitzak urraturik berea
denon artean geurea
etengabe gabiltza zabaltzen
gizatasunari bidea.

Inon ez inor menpekorokan
nor bere buruaren jabe
herri guztioak bat eginikan
ez gabiltza gerorik gabe.

Batek goserikan diraueino
ez gara gu asetuko
beste bat loturik deino
ez gara libre izango.

The sun on high melts
the snow on the peaks
torrentially down to the valleys
in an endless rushInside us is the sun
the heart that can melt
and the light that can scratch away
the ice and darknessWith as much generosity
as passion,
we’ll see the truth

Each clearing away his own,
and all together, ours
let’s never stop widening
the human path

Each is his own master,
no one being dominated
All peoples united,
we will have our future

As long as just one is hungry,
we will not fill up
As long as just one is oppressed,
We will not be free


The Globe and Mail – 8/5/2016 – Canadá

Mi’kmaq teacher Elsie Basque was a revered role model

One of Canada’s oldest residential school survivors, Elsie Basque became not only the first Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia to earn a teaching certificate, but a passionate advocate for the healing power of education. “She was a lady of determination,” Daniel Paul, a Mi’kmaq elder and author of We Were Not the Savages, said. “She fought long and hard for First Nations people.” Ms. Basque, who died at her home in Saulnierville, N.S., on April 11 at the age of 99, was sent to Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in 1930. Her father, Joe Charles, believed she would receive a better education there than at the one-room school house she attended in the small community of Hectanooga, in Digby County, N.S.

(Continue) (Automatic translation)

Euskaletxeak – 2007 – Euskadi

Aniaq: Mi’kmaq and Basques

It’s a well-known fact that the Basques were pioneers in whaling and cod fishing in Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence since the early part of the sixteenth century, working the waters before other countries
arrived. Champlain himself, forefather of what is now Quebéc, defined us as protagonists in fishing and trade in the area before other nations.Therefore, it is not unrealistic to assume that the first outside contacts with

(English) (Castellano)

Last Updated on Dec 20, 2020 by About Basque Country

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